DSS detains ex-NPA MD’s business partner over disputed $4m debt

Crimes in nigeriaA businessman, who alleged continuous detention by officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) and Nigeria Police Force (NPF) since 2017 – Jacob Taiwo Okunrintemi – has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the security agencies.

Okunrintemi has also filed a fundamental rights enforcement suit before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),challenging the propriety of his  detention without trial over an alleged business dispute with his erstwhile business partner, Alhaji Habib Abdullahi.

In petition dated, July 8,2019 authored by Okunrintemi’s lawyer, Bob James, to President Buhari, James attributed his client’s travails to Alhaji Abdullahi, who he said was the Managing Director of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA).

James, who accused the DSS of acting on the instigation of Alhaji Abdullahi, said his client had a business relationship with the ex-NPA MD while he was in office.

He said: “After Alh Habib Abdullahi was removed from NPA, he called our client for a meeting, during which he stated that the total amount he gave to our client, mostly in cash, was well over 4million dollars and he demanded full account and refund.

“Our client denied having ever received such huge sum from Alh Habib Abdullahi. The following day, which was 25th July, 2017, operatives of SSS (DSS) came and arrested our client.

“He was detained in SSS headquarters in Shangisha, Lagos for three weeks. He was later taken to Abuja SSS headquarters by road, blind folded. He was detained in Abuja for about three months in an underground cell.

“He  was again, taken back to Ikoyi, Lagos in another SSS facility where he was detained for’ another five months, in solitary confinement, his legs and hands chained throughout this period.”

James said his client was later released after eight months and after he was made to sign an agreement where most of his properties were seized and handed to Abdullahi.

He said although his client was later detained for some days by men of the Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU), he (Okunrintemi) has now been rearrested and detained by the DSS in its Abuja office.

In an affidavit supporting the suit marked: CV/2451/19, James stated that his client has been returned to DSS’ custody since May 9, 2019 and has been denied access to lawyers by the security agency, which has also not charged him to court for any offence.

He added: “the life, liberty, freedom and person of the applicant are now endangered over an alleged debt from a business transaction/relationship which has already been settled through arbitration process initiated by the first respondent (DSS).

“The SSS detained a man in solitary cell, chained like an animal, for months, to help their client recover 3 to 4 million dollars, without asking their client for proof that he gave their detainee such money, and without even asking their client, who is a public servant, whose salary was not up to 12 million naira per annum, how he came about the over 1billion naira in hard currency, he is now claiming he gave this man.”

The appellant,who isclaiming damages against the four respondents listed in the case, wants the court to among others, declare his continued detention illegal and restrain the respondents perpetually from further arresting and detaining him.

The respondents are the Department of State Security Service (DSS),the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and Alh Habib Abdullahi.

None of the respondents has filed any response to the suit, which is now before Justice Peter Affen and has been scheduled for first mention on July 23, 2019.

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